Chief Enterprise Officer and Director
Vodafone New Zealand
Today I wake up with a choice of how I want to work … at home, in the office, at the batch. Choices most didn’t have but a few years ago, this is the future of work, working in a transient environment.
This choice used to be a great way to attract and retain talent but has now become the norm – and many business leaders had to wonder about how this impacts productivity. Most organisations are now faced with the challenge of how to engage our staff remotely and how to possibly get them back into the office (albeit part time).
In the telecommunication sector we have for many years had this concept called Free Range Working, this means we can work from anywhere thanks to the great technology we have on offer. But the COVID lockdown in March 2020 accelerated this. Overnight our country was expected to either work remotely or not work. Forty per cent of employed people did some work from home and this statistic increases to 66 per cent in the telecommunications sector.
The concept of creating a connection has a deeper meaning, technology is not just about connecting us to the office to do video calls or email, but connecting us with the world, to people and creating a human connection.
Looking forward post lockdown periods; the telco/tech sector are no longer office-bound businesses. We can work wherever and whenever. But this sense of breaking free from old chains has its downsides. Far less face-to-face time has taken its toll. We want to visit our customers, or our teams, in person again. We want to go to that conference. Why? We can’t always fully explain it, but we know we want to. Maybe because we’re humans and we need all our senses to get a ‘sense of it’.
We can see things and people virtually (thank you video tools, IoT, cloud connectivity) but will it replace our real-time senses? Seeing people and things in person, being hands-on? The key is bringing the power of technology and the power of humanity together. That’s where the future of work is – seeing patterns, drawing connections, sensing our way to problem solving with a combination of technology and good old-fashioned human connection. Technology has given us more ways to be more productive in more places than ever before. But let’s not forget that connectivity does not equal connection. Being always-on does not mean we’re always delivering at the top of our game. Often, it’s quite the opposite, in fact 65 per cent of people are craving in-person time with their teams and 66 per cent of business decision makers are considering redesigning physical spaces to better accommodate hybrid work environments.
Adapting to remote working and the constant change is hard. The transition to remote working has resulted in a tsunami of digital tools. Although tech tools are a great way to enable collaboration and workflow, they can heighten stress and anxiety, especially during times of significant change. This is the new challenge that employers face, helping their staff to balance working in the office and at home (should they choose).
Staff engagement is an important factor as discussed, and so is security. Our industry has seen organisations increase their focus on this risk, especially cyber security risk. Organisations are introducing the concept of a Zero Trust Architecture which enhances organisations’ information security posture. This heightened awareness of cyber security is because the more we enable remote working the more exposed the network becomes. The explosion of devices connecting to the office remotely has made them the soft underbelly of businesses targeted by cybercriminals. Detecting and responding to threats like ransomware has become one of the main security challenges for businesses and we expect this to increase in the future.
Organisations that develop a long-term strategy now to mitigate risks while delivering distinctive and human-centric experiences will emerge from the pandemic with stronger operational resilience, more agile organizations, and sustainable competitive advantage that can better respond to a changing economic context and any future shocks.
Organisations should gather feedback from their employees on how they want to work and what hybrid mix can help them maintain their productivity but also foster human connection. Then introduce policies and processes that help to guide the teams and team leaders through this shift into the future ways of working.
Work Trend Index: 2021 Annual Report PowerPoint Presentation (microsoft.com)